What are the memory sources of dreaming?

Abstract

Investigators since Freud have appreciated that memories of the people, places, activities and emotions of daily life are reflected in dreams but are typically so fragmented that their predictability is nil. The mechanisms that translate such memories into dream images remain largely unknown. New research targeting relationships between dreaming, memory and the hippocampus is producing a new theory to explain how, why and when we dream of waking life events.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: Temporal variations in access to memory sources.

References

  1. 1

    Freud, S. The Interpretation of Dreams (Basic Books, New York, 1900).

    Google Scholar 

  2. 2

    Arkin, A. M. & Antrobus, J. S. in The Mind in Sleep (eds Ellman, S. J. & Antrobus, J. S.) 265–307 (John Wiley & Sons, New York, 1991).

    Google Scholar 

  3. 3

    Cavallero, C., Foulkes, D., Hollifield, M. & Terry, R. Memory sources of REM and NREM dreams. Sleep 13, 449–455 (1990).

    CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  4. 4

    Grenier, J. et al. Temporal references in dreams and autobiographical memory. Mem. Cogn. 33, 280–288 (2005).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5

    Fosse, M. J., Fosse, R., Hobson, J. A. & Stickgold, R. J. Dreaming and episodic memory: a functional dissociation? J. Cogn. Neurosci. 15, 1–9 (2003).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6

    Rauchs, G., Desgranges, B., Foret, J. & Eustache, F. The relationships between memory systems and sleep stages. J. Sleep Res. 14, 123–140 (2005).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7

    Hobson, J. A., Pace-Schott, E. F., Stickgold, R. & Kahn, D. To dream or not to dream — relevant data from new neuroimaging and electrophysiological studies. Curr. Opin. Neurobiol. 8, 239–244 (1998).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8

    Braun, A. R. et al. Dissociated pattern of activity in visual cortices and their projections during human rapid eye movement sleep. Science 279, 91–95 (1998).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. 9

    Bodizs, R. et al. Rhythmic hippocampal slow oscillation characterizes REM sleep in humans. Hippocampus 11, 747–753 (2001).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. 10

    Nielsen, T. A. A self-observational study of spontaneous hypnagogic imagery using the upright napping procedure. Imag. Cogn. Person. 11, 353–366 (1992).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. 11

    Luo, J. & Niki, K. Does hippocampus associate discontiguous events? Evidence from event-related fMRI. Hippocampus 15, 141–148 (2005).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. 12

    Kesner, R. P., Lee, I. & Gilbert, P. A behavioral assessment of hippocampal function based on a subregional analysis. Revue Neurosci. 15, 333–351 (2004).

    Google Scholar 

  13. 13

    Cacucci, F., Lever, C., Wills, T. J., Burgess, N. & O'Keefe, J. Theta-modulated place-by-direction cells in the hippocampal formation in the rat. J. Neurosci. 24, 8265–8277 (2004).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14

    Louie, K. & Wilson, M. A. Temporally structured replay of awake hippocampal ensemble activity during rapid eye movement sleep. Neuron 29, 145–156 (2001).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. 15

    Heckers, S., Zalesak, M., Weiss, A. P., Ditman, T. & Titone, D. Hippocampal activation during transitive inference in humans. Hippocampus 14, 153–162 (2004).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. 16

    Torda, C. Dreams of subjects with bilateral hippocampal lesions. Acta Psychiatr. Scand. 45, 277–288 (1969).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  17. 17

    Nielsen, T. A. Chronobiological features of dream production. Sleep Med. Rev. 8, 403–424 (2004).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. 18

    Nielsen, T. A., Kuiken, D., Alain, G., Stenstrom, P. & Powell, R. Immediate and delayed incorporations of events into dreams: further replication and implications for dream function. J. Sleep Res. 13, 327–336 (2004).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. 19

    Squire, L. R. & Alvarez, P. Retrograde amnesia and memory consolidation: a neurobiological perspective. Curr. Opin. Neurobiol. 5, 169–177 (1995).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  20. 20

    Milner, B., Squire, L. R. & Kandel, E. R. Cognitive neuroscience and the study of memory. Neuron 20, 445–468 (1998).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  21. 21

    Thompson, L. T., Moyer, J. R. Jr & Disterhoft, J. F. Transient changes in excitability of rabbit CA3 neurons with a time course appropriate to support memory consolidation. J. Neurophysiol. 76, 1836–1849 (1996).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  22. 22

    Smith, C. Sleep and Brain Plasticity (eds Maquet, P., Smith, C. & Stickgold, R.) 117–133 (Oxford Univ. Press, New York, 2003).

    Google Scholar 

  23. 23

    Poe, G. R., Nitz, D. A., McNaughton, B. L. & Barnes, C. A. Experience-dependent phase-reversal of hippocampal neuron firing during REM sleep. Brain Res. 855, 176–180 (2000).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  24. 24

    Bjorness, T. E., Riley, B. T., Tysor, M. K. & Poe, G. R. REM restriction persistently alters strategy used to solve a spatial task. Learn. Mem. 12, 352–359 (2005).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. 25

    Popp, C. A. et al. Repetitive relationship themes in waking narratives and dreams. J. Consult. Clin. Psychol. 64, 1073–1078 (1996).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  26. 26

    Hartmann, E. Dreams and Nightmares: the New Theory on the Origin and Meaning of Dreams. (Plenum, New York, 1998).

    Google Scholar 

  27. 27

    Misane, I. et al. Time-dependent involvement of the dorsal hippocampus in trace fear conditioning in mice. Hippocampus 15, 418–426 (2005).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  28. 28

    Kajiwara, R., Takashima, I., Mimura, Y., Witter, M. P. & Iijima, T. Amygdala input promotes spread of excitatory neural activity from perirhinal cortex to the entorhinal-hippocampal circuit. J. Neurophysiol. 89, 2176–2184 (2003).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. 29

    Pesant, N. & Zadra, A. Working with dreams in therapy: what do we know and what should we do? Clin. Psychol. Rev. 24, 489–512 (2004).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. 30

    Paller, K. A. & Voss, J. L. Memory reactivation and consolidation during sleep. Learn. Mem. 11, 664–670 (2004).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. 31

    Ribeiro, S. et al. Induction of hippocampal long-term potentiation during waking leads to increased extrahippocampal zif-268 expression during ensuing rapid-eye-movement sleep. J. Neurosci. 22, 10914–10923 (2002).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  32. 32

    Cipolli, C., Fagioli, I., Mazzetti, M. & Tuozzi, G. Consolidation effect of the processing of declarative knowledge during human sleep: evidence from long-term retention of interrelated contents of mental sleep experiences. Brain Res. Bull. 65, 97–104 (2005).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  33. 33

    Fiss, H., Kremer, E. & Lichtman, J. The mnemonic function of dreaming. Sleep Res. 6, 122–136 (1977).

    Google Scholar 

  34. 34

    Smith, C. & Hanke, J. Memory processing reflected in dreams from rapid eye movement sleep. Sleep 27 (Suppl. 1), A60 (2004).

    Google Scholar 

  35. 35

    Stickgold, R., Hobson, J. A., Fosse, R. & Fosse, M. Sleep, learning, and dreams: off-line memory reprocessing. Science 294, 1052–1057 (2001).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  36. 36

    Johnson, J. D. REM sleep and the development of context memory. Med. Hypotheses 64, 499–504 (2005).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. 37

    Payne, J. D. & Nadel, L. Sleep, dreams, and memory consolidation: the role of the stress hormone cortisol. Learn. Mem. 11, 671–678 (2004).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  38. 38

    Tulving, E. Episodic memory: from mind to brain. Annu. Rev. Psychol. 53, 1–25 (2002).

    ADS  Article  Google Scholar 

  39. 39

    Hall, C. & Van de Castle, R. I. The Content Analysis of Dreams (Appleton-Century-Crofts, New York, 1966).

    Google Scholar 

  40. 40

    Cabeza, R. et al. Brain activity during episodic retrieval of autobiographical and laboratory events: an fMRI study using a novel photo paradigm. J. Cogn. Neurosci. 16, 1583–1594 (2004).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  41. 41

    Powell, R. A., Nielsen, T. A., Cheung, J. S. & Cervenka, T. M. Temporal delays in incorporation of events into dreams. Percept. Mot. Skills 81, 95–104 (1995).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

Thanks are due to D. Petit, E. Martel and T. Paquette for editorial assistance. The work was supported by grants to Nielsen from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Tore A. Nielsen.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Additional information

Author Information Reprints and permissions information is available at npg.nature.com/reprintsandpermissions.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Nielsen, T., Stenstrom, P. What are the memory sources of dreaming?. Nature 437, 1286–1289 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature04288

Download citation

Further reading

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.

Search

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter for a daily update on COVID-19 science.
Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing